Robin Hood (2018)
The latest remake of the movie “Robin Hood” is yet another attempt to humanize the legend. In this case Robin is cast as something of an anti-hero. He is reasonably good looking but of average intellect and failing that a poorly motivated soldier of modest athletic ability. Rather his sole virtue seems to be a tradesman’s income sufficient to provide a town house lost among a host of identical others adjacent to the castle. Maid Marion is a shapely but unsuccessful horse thief with the otherwise unremarkable look of the girl next door and with only slightly more intelligence and mental toughness.
Rather the real hero is a black Muslim soldier, renamed “John”, who Robin meets and attempts to befriend under difficult circumstances in the Crusades. From there the plot is driven by “John” and the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham who alone are intelligent and motivated enough to have an agenda. While everyone else stumbles from circumstance to circumstance apparently guided by pure instinct, these two stalwarts purposely create the legend.
Secondary characters of note are a childhood friend of Robin namely “Friar Tuck” who is now the village priest and provides a moral center, a stereotyped drill sergeant master-of-arms “Guy of Gisbourne” who served with Robin in the Holy land, and a labor union leader, “Will Scarlet”, who besides forming a love triangle with Maid Marion later turns traitor and is himself appointed Sheriff. The archetypical villain providing a tenuous link to the king is a disgusting, profoundly immoral, cleric disguised as a Cardinal of the Christian Church.
What is lacking is the slightest semblance of a medieval environment, any character development, and failing that any intelligible story line. Instead the writing and film editing are among the worst in recent memory. Attempts at humor fall so flat we get bored waiting for them to hit rock bottom. Lines of supposed dramatic import are so out of context as to be inexplicable. On the other hand the non-stop action scenes are well done with thrills aplenty. These provide an abundance of death-defying horse races and are replete with fireworks setting everything in sight on fire. Maid Marion, Robin, and assorted nobles prance to and fro in the latest fashion statements with flowing jackets and other fancy apparel.
In an age when illiteracy especially among the nobility was the rule, when parchment was priceless beyond measure, and when service in the Crusades entirely voluntary, the Sheriff sends out hundreds of written draft notices with phrasing identical to that of the American Selective Service Board. In an age when yeoman weaponry was pike and sword, this production implausibly invents machine gun like crossbows. Instead of battles between armies in open fields, soldiers in infantry squads are tasked to clear houses not with rifles but with bows and arrows. Apparently the writers have been watching too many WWII movies. Patrols to discover enemy intentions sneak into a besieged garrison holed up behind massive walls. Siege engines are not employed in the traditional manner to breach a town wall but instead used as blanketing artillery fire. Need we go on …
The captured Muslim, John, is not offered for ransom or killed but instead transported as a slave back to England and then somehow released and given free rein to wander about loose. Despite the passion of their earlier life, Maid Marion takes up with Will Scarlet shortly after Robin leaves. And on Robin’s return she is only remotely regretful in a love triangle completely lacking in passion at any corner. The English town adjacent to the perfunctory castle is an open pit mine of a form that never existed in England within a millennia. Peasants instead of being rooted in agriculture are apparently members of the local coal mining labor union.
Traditional virtues are attacked non-stop. The sheriff rather than being the traditional aristocrat was instead raised in an orphanage. In a bonding moment with Robin, the sheriff, who seems to need a friend, reveals that forced sodomy was the order of the day. Hollywood values were apparently more widespread that we could have imagined.
The central theme is that for some nebulous reason the Cardinal is giving everyone’s tax monies to Muslim monarchs who at the time were more than six months of difficult travel away in the Mid-East and who could not field an army of note within a thousand miles. And if that were not enough evil to overcome, the attack on the Christian Church is vile and relentless and incomprehensible.
And so despite the well done special effects and elegant costuming, the lack of a believable plot, the absence of any real romance, and the absurd attack on common decency are insufficient to overcome the excellent action scenes. This is not a really bad movie, just one impossible to recommend.